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rcas annual report: 2015-16

Rutland County Audubon celebrated another successful year on July 6 with a delicious potluck supper, presentation of the annual report and election of next year's board members. Prior to the annual report and election, participants shared their favorite bird and nature stories from the past year.

After reading through the annual, we can be proud of last year's accomplishments. Looking forward we hope to do more. As always there is an endless need for volunteers. If you have time to spare for us, let us know! We can be reached at birding@rutlandcountyaudubon.org

Thank you to Roy Pilcher for preparing this excellent report!




2015-2016 Annual Report of the Rutland County Audubon Society:


RCAS members participated in the annual Vermont Green-Up Day at West Rutland Marsh on Saturday, May 7. This was the 24th year RCAS has participated in Green Up Day.

As of June 20, 2016 RCAS has undertaken 179 consecutive monthly bird monitoring walks each 3.7 miles, around West Rutland Marsh, a Vermont-designated Important Bird Area (IBA). A total of 149 bird species has been tallied by 2,037 participants. Pine Warbler was the onlynew species added during this past fiscal year, raising the the total species count to 149. All data is recorded on eBird.

a Prothonotary Warber in West Haven was a birding highlight this yearBird monitoring of the Mountain Top Farm Conservation Easement was continued under the spring/summer/fall protocol, initiated on June 14, 2012 by Steve Hagenbuch, Audubon Vermont's Forest Bird Initiative biologist. As of May 2016, 63 bird species have been recorded. All data is recorded on eBird.

A proposal to erect a bird blind and feeding station at Ayer's Meadow in the Mountain Top conservation easement was withdrawn. We at RCAS were having difficulty fitting it in since the conditions of the easement prohibit structures.

A proposal to erect a viewing platform at the Brandon Swamp wetland off Route 73 on the Brandon/Sudbury line was exhaustively investigated on several levels, but finally abandoned due to safety and environmental concerns. Thanks to Nate Dansereau for his investigative work.  Any future proposals of that type should start with local community support.

RCAS members participated for a fifth year in monitoring designated Audubon Vermont/VELCO power line rights-of-way for seven brush/grassland bird species in particular Golden-winged/Blue-winged Warbler.

RCAS members covered the lakes in Rutland County as part of the annual Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey.

RCAS provided financial support to the Vermont Bobolink Project and to the Vermont Center for Ecostudies that manages the VT eBird portal.


Marsh Day saw 27 fifth grade pupils from Poultney Elementary School participate in a four-activity event at the West Rutland Marsh presented by members of RCAS. The four activities included Life under the Water,  using shallow pans and microscopes; Bird Walk to acquaint participants with the birds of the marsh as well as how to use binoculars; Wetlands, a brief look at three types of wetlands and their beneficial functions; and Wetland Plants.

RCAS voted to provide financial support in the amount of $400 for the Leicester Central School’s Hawk Hill Field Study which involved students pre-k through 6th grade. Activities included twice a week hikes at Hawk Hill to learn about its wetlands with the support and interaction from Otter Valley Unified Union High School students who were involved in the Moosalamoo Program. Support for the program was made in conjunction with Otter Creek Audubon.

the Century Count was one of the year's highlightsRCAS maintained the kiosk and immediate area at the entrance of the West Rutland Marsh where marsh-related information is posted.  A new Watchable Wildlife sign was erected in West Rutland to direct visitors to the marsh.                          

On May 13, 2016 RCAS participated in the Buckner Memorial Preserve bioblitz involving Castleton Middle School students and Fair Haven High School students. It was organized and supplied by Castleton University professors and students.

Marsha Booker and Roy Pilcher, at the invitation of the Pittsford Preschool, presented programs that were well received by these young schoolers who were themselves receptive, enthusiastic and well-prepared.

Updated and posted the bird lists for the West Rutland Marsh, Pomainville WMA and Gifford Woods State Park. An additional list was provided to Aitken State Forest.

On October 13, 2015 Alyssa Bennett, bat spokesperson for Vermont Fish and Wildlife presented an excellent program on bats at the Rutland Free Library.

On January 26, 2016 Gary Starr presented his program on The Birds of Madagascar at the Rutland Free Library. Beside the birds the exposure to the landscape of Madagascar was particularly interesting.

On February 23, 2016 Hank Kastner, a world-wide birding enthusiast, presented his program, Birding in Kazakhstan at the Rutland Free Library. He also included pictures on a birding trip he took to Yemen. For those of us in the audience who will never visit these countries it was a most enlightening program. 

On March 16, 2016 Lee Allen presented his program on a Peruvian Cruise on the Amazo” at the Rutland Free Library. 

Thanks to Renee Warren, program director and board member, for organizing and planning all the above programs.

Recreated a display for the Vermont State Fair’s Forestry Pavilion in Rutland, based on Audubon Vermont’s Forest Bird Initiative that encourages forest managers to accommodate various nesting bird preferences. Thanks to Marsha Booker and Kathleen Guinness for their contribution. RCAS members also helped staff the Forestry Building during the fair.

Following some minor modifications, a set of 500 Bridge to Bridge brochures  for West Rutland Marsh were reprinted. Thanks to Mike Blust who spear-headed the project. Bridge-to-Bridge brochures were placed at the West Rutland town hall and West Rutland library. Partial funding was provided by an Audubon Vermont grant.

Audubon Adventures is now accessible digitally on line except for the newspaper. Schools that participated did so independently of RCAS. Thanks to Marsha Booker who coordinated this program over the years.

Submitted the West Rutland Marsh annual report to the Town of West Rutland to be incorporated into their annual Town Report.

A Super Senior segment featuring Roy Pilcher aired on WCAX and included a discussion of and scenes depicting the West Rutland marsh. A letter of appreciation was sent by the Town Manager and Select Board of West Rutland.


RCAS continues to support the work of the locally based USDA/NRCS office in the expansion of the Wetlands Reserve Program particularly in Rutland County along the Otter Creek. On June 24, 2016 RCAS participated in a celebration of the DeMarais Wetland Easement in Brandon, the largest wetland easement in the state, as well as other conserved lands along Otter Creek in Rutland County

RCAS holds the conservation easement on 15.36 acres of wetland now owned by BAI, LLC and a right-of -way access to the wetland. The adjacent property of 19.58 acres and the one traversed by the RCAS right of way is owned by Mid-Vermont Properties. The proposed development on the approximate eight acres of upland within the 19.8 acres goes by the name, Rutland Commons. RCAS and MVP were joint applicants in the prolonged, but eventually successful Act 250 permitting process for the initial Rutland Commons project. With no immediate clients the Rutland Commons project languished until 2014 when Saxon Partners, LLC indicated an interest and began the process in and through the local District Environmental Commission to acquire the necessary permitting. The opposition by BAI, LLC to the proposed Saxon Partners development continues at this time in the Vermont Superior Court, Environmental Division. RCAS remains an interested party awaiting a definitive ruling by the Court scheduled for September 2016. Throughout this prolonged process, RCAS has relied on the expertise of RCAS member Valerie Biebuyck, ably assisted by Marv Elliott to both of whom we owe a great debt of gratitude. RCAS has engaged the services of James A. Dumont, Esq. in case future legal representation becomes necessary. The defense of this significant wetland and the aquifer beneath it could become a project that lasts for many years in the future.


Monthly RCAS Board meetings, scheduled for the third Thursday of each month, were held throughout the year except December (due to the Christmas Bird Count).

Liability Insurance was again purchased through R V Nuccio, Insurance Brokers that covers board members and volunteers involving participants and/or property damage at events.

A Member Appreciation gathering and potluck was held on April 6, 2016 at the Proctor Free Library to recognize the contributions of Valerie Biebuyck for her efforts in supporting the RCAS cause of protecting the wetlands surrounding the former Rutland Commons project site.

RCAS was the host chapter this year for Vermont’s fall and spring Chapter Assemblies on Saturday, November 14 and Saturday, April 2 respectively.

Current RCAS membership stands at approximately 240 National Members. 

We continue the updating and development of our website inviting browsers to learn of programs, events and Birding Hot Spots.” Thanks to Webmaster David Jenne and Sue Elliott. Email alerts of new website articles and upcoming events are sent regularly by Tim Abraham.

a Northern Saw-whet Owl thrilled birders at the marshThe RCAS Flickr page exhibiting a wide array of bird, butterfly and dragonfly images found in Rutland County remains both well supplied with images and widely popular. We are also increasing our social media following through Facebook.

Thanks to Kathleen Guinness for secretarial minutes that make this Annual Report possible. In addition Kathleen has worked hard to organize many of our potluck suppers and meetings including the Christmas Bird Count.


The annual Mount Philo Broad-winged Hawk Migration field trip took place on September 15. Unfavorable weather conditions dictated the outcome with few hawks flying.

RCAS undertook two successful Bird Seed Sales and Membership Recruitment drives, one at Garland’s Farm and Garden in Rutland and the other at Brandon’s Blue Seal on November 7. A sum of $846 was raised in addition to the recruitment of ten new National Audubon members and one Friend membership.  

The forty-second Annual Christmas Bird Count and Pot Luck Supper was held on January 2, 2016. Thirty-two Field Observers and eight Feeder Watchers tallied 53 species on count day and a further two species during count week representing 8,452 individual birds. This number is closely aligned to the ten-year running average of 8,480 birds. All Christmas Bird Count data is entered on eBird. 

The annual Champlain Valley birding field trip, Winter Regulars and Raritie” was held on Saturday, January 21. A record 16 participants turned out in spite of a particularly inhospitable and blustery day, but they were rewarded with the sighting of 11 Bald Eagles and a large flock of Snow Buntings that included a few Horned Larks. Thanks to Roy Pilcher for leading the trip. 

The Century County Count XXI attracted 12 participants who recorded exactly 100 species during almost13 hours of birding in Rutland County on Saturday, May 28, 2016. Twenty-five checklists were submitted to eBird thanks to Sue Elliott. Conflict with Memorial Day celebrations has prompted suggestions for some new initiatives!


west rutland marsh - june monitoring report

Even on a cool morning in June at West Rutland Marsh, with a few showers, beats just about any other month of the year. Today 13 participants tallied 62 species, one above our June average and four below one year ago.

Gray CatbirdWe joked that today was a bit of a catwalk as we talked to newcomers about the difference between cattails (good) and phragmites (bad), plenty of yakking catbirds, the remains of a dead catfish in the road (which was really probably a sucker) and a non-Audubon approved cat that followed us down the road. Although we take our monitoring seriously we never leave fun out of the equation!

The bird of the day was a flyover Osprey, a species rarely seen at the marsh, and our only raptor of the day.

The expected marsh species were present: a Virginia Rail, two American Bitterns, a flyover Great Blue Heron as well as lots of Marsh Wrens and Swamp Sparrows. A couple sets of sharp ears picked out the low chuckle of a Least Bittern about halfway between the kiosk and the green house. A Green Heron along Pleasant Street was perched on a dead tree, giving its ‘skeow’ call and giving everyone the opportunity for a good look while a second heron flew by.

Green HeronAlong the way we saw an Eastern Kingbird nest, a Baltimore Oriole nest and a Common Grackle nest with young. We know there were plenty more we missed!

The warbler songs were bit muted along Whipple Hollow Road as a light rain started. Nevertheless, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Black-and-white Warbler, Nashville Warbler, American Redstart, Blackburnian Warbler and Yellow-rumped Warbler were all heard. Plenty of Common Yellowthroats and Yellow Warblers were heard along the marshier parts of the route, along with more redstarts and a Chestnut-sided Warbler.

Thanks to all the new participants who joined us today. If you haven’t participated in a marsh walk we hope to see you soon at one of them!

Today’s list:

Canada Goose  6
Mallard  3   
American Bittern  2
Least Bittern  1   
Great Blue Heron  1
Green Heron  2
Osprey  1
Virginia Rail  1
Wilson's Snipe  4
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  1
Mourning Dove  8
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  2
Downy Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker  2
Pileated Woodpecker  2
Eastern Wood-Pewee  2
Alder Flycatcher  7
Willow Flycatcher  5
Eastern Phoebe  1
Great Crested Flycatcher  1
Eastern Kingbird  4
Warbling Vireo  6
Red-eyed Vireo  10
Blue Jay  4
American Crow  2
Common Raven  2
Tree Swallow  4
Black-capped Chickadee  7
Tufted Titmouse  1
Brown Creeper  2
House Wren  4
Marsh Wren  11
Veery  7
Wood Thrush  1
American Robin  12
Gray Catbird  8
European Starling  3
Cedar Waxwing  8
Ovenbird  4
Northern Waterthrush  1
Black-and-white Warbler  2
Nashville Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  13
American Redstart  6
Blackburnian Warbler  1
Yellow Warbler  11
Chestnut-sided Warbler  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
Chipping Sparrow  1
Savannah Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  9
Swamp Sparrow  10
Northern Cardinal  5
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  2
Red-winged Blackbird  17
Common Grackle  5
Brown-headed Cowbird  2
Baltimore Oriole  4
House Finch  1
American Goldfinch  8
House Sparrow  3


century count xxi

Bingo! 100 on the nose for today’s RCAS annual Century Count, our annual attempt to tally 100 species in the county. 

Prairie WarblerThis year marked our 21st attempt and, after two years of falling short, it was satisfying to reach our goal. Although grateful for the sunny weather, it felt more like the 4th of July rather than Memorial Day weekend. Bird song seemed to be a bit muted. 

As the group gathered at the West Rutland Price Chopper parking lot a Belted Kingfisher flew over, an unusual site for that location, but a good omen for the day. A brief stop at West Rutland Marsh yielded the usual suspects – Willow and Alder flycatcher, Yellow Warbler and Swamp Sparrow. A Wild Turkey was taking an early morning stroll down the road. 

The Pleasant Street power line is always pleasant in the early morning.  Prairie Warblers, Eastern Towhees and Field Sparrows were heard immediately. “Bees buzz” alerted us to the presence of a winged warbler which turned out to be the real deal, a Blue-winged Warbler, suitably attired for its species. A Prairie Warbler was seen carrying nesting material to an undisclosed location. A Magnolia Warbler was heard in the adjacent woods.

Then it was back to the marsh for the real treat of the morning – the fledgling Northern Saw-whet Owls. Three were spotted in the trees and brush near the nest box. Who would have thought that Least Bittern and Virginia Rail, both also heard, would be eclipsed by owls at the marsh?

Whipple Hollow Road, on the opposite side of the marsh, produced many of the same warbler species observed on last week’s marsh walk: Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Black-and-white Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided Warbler and Canada Warbler. 

Next it was on the take on the ticks at the Route 4 rest area. Eastern Wood-Pewee was heard for the first time for the day. Two Wood Thrushes gave a lovely concert despite the traffic noise from Route 4 below. Then finally we found our target – the Cerulean Warbler! At the same area both the Cerulean and a Blackburnian Warbler were singing, reminding us that it is impossible to discern a Cerulean by song alone. Finally, after much neck-breaking searching, we spotted a male Cerulean quite high (of course!) in the trees. It appeared to be hawking insects and, at one point, sat on a branch quivering its wings, leading us to believe a female was nearby.

Along the nature trail at Castleton University we picked up Pine Warbler and Louisiana Waterthrush. While sitting in traffic waiting for the marching bands from the Castleton parade to clear, we added Chimney Swift and Carolina Wren.

Our lunch stop at Bomoseen State Park was a welcome respite from the heat. While there we heard Yellow-throated Vireo and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. An American Redstart was building nest and a Scarlet Tanager was spotted.

KilldeerBobolinks were found at the Fair Haven Airport and two very hot Killdeer were sitting tight on their nests to keep their eggs cool. 

It is becoming difficult to see anything on the conserved land along Route 73 in Brandon/Sudbury as the willows and other vegetation has grown up. However, six Great Blue Herons were seen in flight, along with two Wood Duck. There was a lot of rattling of Marsh Wrens. A Common Gallinule was also heard.

The day ended with a stop at Wildcat Road and Lefferts Pond in Chittenden, where we picked up Winter Wren, Brown Creeper, Black-throated Blue Warbler and Yellow-rumped Warbler. A Broad-winged Hawk was seen perched in the dark woods. And the final bird of the day: a Common Loon floating serenely on Chittenden Reservoir. 

Every Century Count has a species that is inexplicably missed. This year there were three: Hermit Thrush, Black-throated Green Warbler and House Finch (a Purple Finch/House Finch was seen, but its true identity was never determined).

Once again, thanks to Roy Pilcher, for planning the trip and the 12 participants who used their sharp eyes and ears to good advantage.

The day's list (27 eBird checklists were entered for the day):


Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Wild Turkey
Common Loon
American Bittern
Least Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Virginia Rail
Common Gallinule
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Alder Flycatcher
Willow Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Yellow-throated Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
House Wren
Winter Wren
Marsh Wren
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Louisiana Waterthrush
Northern Waterthrush
Blue-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Cerulean Warbler
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Canada Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
White-throated Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow



west rutland marsh - may monitoring report

Nothing beats May at the marsh! This beautiful morning 26 participants tallied 74 species, not quite close to last May’s 81, but well above this month’s average of 68.

A Least Bittern was heard along Marble Street, just north of the kiosk, giving its low chuckle. One American Bittern was heard and one was seen. Two Green Herons were observed at the mid-point of the walk along Pleasant Street. Five Great Blue Herons were flying high in formation, perhaps towards the heronry in Florence.

Two Virginia Rails were seen well near the boardwalk engaged in, well, making more rails. A third rail was heard along Water Street. Wilson’s Snipe have been in much evidence this year – one was heard from the boardwalk and there were two more near the power line.

Virginia RailThe full flycatcher contingent is in: Alder, Willow, Least, Great-crested Flycatcher were all present as well as Eastern Phoebe and Eastern Kingbird, all very vocal.

A Red-breasted Nuthatch, a species not often seen at the marsh, was observed near a possible nest hole. Interestingly no White-breasted Nuthatches were seen. 

All three of the expected thrushes were singing – Veery, Hermit and Wood. A fourth thrush, an American Robin, was seen carrying food. Red-winged Blackbirds and Grackles were also carrying food so the season is well underway. 

Along with Yellow Warblers and Common Yellowthroats along the whole route, there was a nice assortment of warblers along Whipple Hollow Road. Three Canada Warblers and a Northern Waterthrush were in their usual spots. Also present were Ovenbird, Black-and-white, Nashville, American Redstart, Northern Parula, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, Yellow-rumped and Black-throated Green.

One Savannah Sparrow was singing along Marble Street.

The next marsh walk is scheduled for Saturday, June 11, at 7 a.m.

The day's list:

Canada Goose 14
Wood Duck 1
Mallard 3
Wild Turkey 1
American Bittern 2
Least Bittern 1
Great Blue Heron 5
Green Heron 2
Turkey Vulture 1
Virginia Rail 3
Wilson's Snipe 3
Mourning Dove 18
Belted Kingfisher 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 2
Downy Woodpecker 5
Hairy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker 1
Pileated Woodpecker 2
Alder Flycatcher 3
Willow Flycatcher 2
Least Flycatcher 6
Eastern Phoebe 4
Great Crested Flycatcher 2
Eastern Kingbird 4
Yellow-throated Vireo 1

Warbling Vireo 9
Red-eyed Vireo 7
Blue Jay 13
American Crow 3
Common Raven 4
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 2
Tree Swallow 5
Barn Swallow 6
Black-capped Chickadee 13
Tufted Titmouse 4
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
House Wren 3
Marsh Wren 11
Veery 7
Hermit Thrush 1
Wood Thrush 1
American Robin 8
Gray Catbird 18
European Starling 2
Cedar Waxwing 4
Ovenbird 7
Northern Waterthrush 1
Black-and-white Warbler 4
Nashville Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 30
American Redstart 14
Northern Parula 2
Blackburnian Warbler 1
Yellow Warbler 19
Chestnut-sided Warbler 3
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
Black-throated Green Warbler 2
Canada Warbler 3
Chipping Sparrow 2
Savannah Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 12
Swamp Sparrow 17
Eastern Towhee 1
Scarlet Tanager 2
Northern Cardinal 6
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1
Red-winged Blackbird 34
Common Grackle 8
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Baltimore Oriole 4
House Finch 2
Purple Finch 3
American Goldfinch 26
House Sparrow 1


flight of the snowbird

Ring-billed GullMention the term "snowbird" and what comes to mind? If you are a birder you are hoping for an influx of birds from Canada to our area. However if you are of a certain age you think of leaving the cold for warmer climes. My story involves both of these migrants.

In late December we headed south to Titusville, Florida which is on the east coast right across from the Kennedy Space Center. Just minutes away is the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge offers a wide variety of winter migrants as well as endemics. A tour through the Black Point Drive is always filled with great flocks of waders, coots, ducks and other species that can be observed fairly close up.

Playalinda Beach is a short ride from this drive and offers a chance of seeing Northern Gannets as well as shorebirds such as Ruddy Turnstones and the ever cute Sanderlings. As I made my way down this beautiful beach I came upon a small group of Royal Terns and Laughing and Ring-billed gulls.

Close inspection of the group revealed that one of the Ring-billed Gulls was banded, both with the standard aluminum band plus a blue tag on the other leg. I quickly got out my camera and took some photos of the gull. Upon returning to our campground I reviewed the photos and found that the band had the alpha-numeric code of 3AF. Thanks to technology I went online and googled "ring-billed gulls with bands." The site came up immediately and I filled out the form with all the details of where and when as well as the identification tag. The next morning my email had been answered. Professor Jean-Francois Giroux, a professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal, is part of a study of these gulls and how they disperse.

My bird, I was told, is a male, banded on May 17, 2012 on Ile Delauriers, Varennes, Quebec. Subsequently it has traveled from there to Playalinda Beach and has been seen most winters. Come late March this snowbird makes his way back to Canada.

A couple of years ago I had seen a Ring-billed Gull on the very same stretch of beach with the same tag! The odds of seeing a tagged bird more than once is rather remote, but here was my bird loafing in the sunshine once again!

Finding birds with this type of banding and reporting the information to the proper study groups gives the researchers valuable data. So be on the lookout for any tagged birds, get a photo or write down the tag information. This is just another venue for the citizen scientist to add to the knowledge of migratory birds.